What are Identify Theft and Identity Fraud?

Identity theft and identity fraud are crimes in which a person uses another’s personal information for economic gain or for taking on the identity of another.  These activities necessarily involve fraud, deception, false statements, and/or misrepresentations. This is because the perpetrator steals another’s identifying information, uses stolen identities, or copies someone’s information without consent to do so.

Common examples of identity theft and identity fraud include the use of someone else’s information for identity or credit.  Common ways to use someone’s identity are from credit cards, Social Security numbers, account information, and obtaining credit.

Identification Fraud Charges

Identity fraud is referred to in the federal charges as “identification fraud.”  This is fraud and related activity with identification documents, authentication features, and credit information.

Here are the prohibited acts in this federal identification fraud charge statute:

  1. Using an identification document or a false identification document (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(1));
  2. Transferring an identification document or a false identification document (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(2));
  3. Possessing with intent to use unlawfully five or more identification documents or false identification documents (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(3));
  4. Possessing with intent to transfer unlawfully five or more identification documents or false identification documents (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(3));
  5. Possessing an identification document or a false identification document with the intent to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(4));
  6. Possessing a stolen identification document that is issued by the United States (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(6));
  7. Possessing an identification document that appears to be an identification document of the United States, which was fraudulently produced (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(6));
  8. Producing, transferring, or possessing a false ID document-making implement (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(5));
  9. Transfers, possesses, or uses the identification of another (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7));
  10. Traffics in authentication features for use in false ID documents (18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(8)).

In summary, you can be charged for possessing, using, or transferring identification documents, or using a false identity document machine.

Identity theft or identification fraud can result in other charges, such as mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, or credit card fraud.

Aggrivated Identity Theft

Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 1028A is the “aggravated” identity theft statute that is used to charge persons for using or transferring the specific identity information.  It reads:

Whoever knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years.

The two (2) years sentence in federal court is in addition to any U.S. Sentencing Guidelines sentence for other charges in the Indictment.  There is no parole in federal court. For example, if an Indictment alleges conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, then any Guidelines sentence from a conviction of conspiracy and wire fraud, will be determined.  Then, the Aggravated Identity Theft conviction will add an additional two years to the total imprisonment sentence.

If You Are Under Investigation

Before you consent to interviews with law enforcement, and before you consent to a search, know your rights.  Contact an experienced attorney.

If you learn that you are under investigation for identity theft or identification fraud, contact former federal prosecutor John Teakell.  Mr. Teakell will lead you through the decisions about whether to speak to investigators or prosecutors. He will help you gather information for prosecutors and investigators to try to stop formal charges.  Mr. Teakell will assess your investigation and case in all aspects of defending it.